Society management

The metaverse is coming – society should beware

Here’s the metaverse, at least if some major players in the tech industry have what they want.

What is the metaverse? According to Fortune 500 Nvidia’s website, the metaverse is a “three-dimensional, interactive, immersive, and collaborative virtual world or worlds.”

While the Metaverse may seem like a cakewalk in the sky, some of the brightest tech minds and billions of dollars are already being invested to bring the company into the Metaverse over the next few years. And many more investments are to come.

Meta Platforms, Inc. (“Meta”), the social media company formerly known as Facebook, recently rebranded itself, changing its name to reflect what it sees as the tech wave of the future. Meta CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergBest and Worst Crisis Management in 2021 Gunman with ‘hit list’ including Biden, Fauci arrested in Iowa on his way to the White House Meta launches virtual world app MORE sees the metaverse, which will take five to ten years to become mainstream, as “the next frontier of technology – the place where people will live, work and play.”

Metaverse evangelist David Rubin imagines the possible commercial applications of the metaverse as follows: “Coca-Cola paying for the preferred placement of a pavilion, Ford paying for its virtual cars to be usable or Procter & Gamble promoting its marks on digital billboards. Gucci could open a virtual store and Comcast would pay for a giant billboard that reads, “Comcast: Get Better MetaSpeed!

Apple Inc., for its part, would launch a mixed reality headset in 2022. Alphabet Inc., formerly known as Google, had attempted its own version, known as “Google Glass,” which could be resurrected at the future.

Microsoft has unveiled new features in its business-oriented and collaborative Teams software, which will allow businesses to create immersive spaces where workers can meet. The technology uses Microsoft software called Mesh that enables augmented reality and virtual reality experiences on a variety of glasses, including Microsoft’s HoloLens.

And dozens of other tech companies are investing in potential metaverse applications.

Three-dimensional business meetings may seem benign, but the likely huge costs of the greater metaverse are too predictable: an increased detachment of individuals from reality.

Even though the metaverse is collaborative in the sense that there can be multiple participating users within a three-dimensional platform, we would have even less reason to interact physically. The implications would probably be even less common in-person meals, public ceremonies, celebrations, parties, etc.

The further we move away from reality, the more emotional numbness and distance we feel. The least interactive. The least human. The highs are lower and the lows are higher. Any form of prolonged escape will do it, whether it’s mind-altering drugs, television, gambling, pornography, or, it seems, metaverse.

We saw a glimpse of this with the mental health crises that matched the lockdowns of COVID-19 – reported cases of depression and anxiety exploded as we isolated ourselves from each other, despite the technology at hand.

Since most individuals are already so addicted to our screens, imagine how more addictive and immersive the metaverse will be when the senses are more fully engaged. The implications could mean more isolation, suicide, mental distress, poor physical health – and the list goes on.

Therefore, should not society and public policies prioritize reality? Focusing on reality does not mean going back to the days of the horse and the buggy. This means that we can foster safeguards against technologies that do not advance human freedom and development, but restrict it or even stifle it.

Technology is a tool and can be miraculous. But public policy should support technology that makes more real-world existence possible, not escape. There can sometimes be a fine line in between, but it’s a line worth drawing.

To the extent that Metaverse applications turn out to be simply an escape from reality, society should oppose it. If it cannot be developed without bringing the world into greater detachment, then the metaverse should be totally opposed.

Some might say that the free market must prevail and guide technology forward. But freedom can only exist if it is based on reality and truth. Who will shape the reality of the metaverse? Will it be a handful of tech oligarchs, overseeing a “land” of censorship and classifying commercialism at the expense of meaningful discourse and dialogue?

Considering the lack of guardrails to protect children from the damaging effects of social media, how much worse would the Metaverse be?

Given the metaverse’s apparent imminence, policymakers would do well to examine these issues now, rather than wait for them to happen.

Congress could start by repealing the research and development tax credits that underpin the development of the metaverse. Then Congress should revise existing antitrust law that allows big tech companies to continue to profit from wide divides and near monopolies in their respective industries, fueling those big visions for what could be a dystopian future.

Until adequate safeguards and monitoring exist, I will stick with reality on the Metaverse. Policymakers should do it too.

Chad Bayse is a Navy Judge Advocate and former Advisor to the Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump’s endorsement: the more sordid the better. Those who predict the demise of Facebook are blowing smoke. and lawyer at the National Security Agency. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and not those of the Department of Defense or the Navy.